Privatisation can be expected to bring improvements to regional commuter train services as well as to passenger services generally. The Government also welcome the support that local authorities have given to developing local services in their areas.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that among the proposals of the Greater Nottingham rail strategy is one for a line that crosses the county boundary into Derbyshire and for additional small commuter stations at Ilkeston, Sandiacre and Long Eaton in my constituency. What action can his Department take to forward that proposal, as it utilises better the existing midland main railway line, to the benefit of commuters?
Yes, I am aware of the proposal and of my hon. Friend's support for it. Any application to the Department for funding would need to be accompanied by a full appraisal that demonstrates that the scheme would provide value for money and better prospects for relieving traffic congestion, perhaps by encouraging transfer from private cars, rather than having, say, an express bus service. We are open to such a proposal and would look carefully at it should it emerge.
Will the Secretary of State reflect on what would happen to commuter services into Edinburgh from Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy if rust were to take hold on the Forth bridge? If that happened, one impregnated lattice structure would make it impossible to use that bridge, which is vital to the area north of the Forth. It is also the greatest monument to British engineering of the 19th century and is the picture postcard image of Britain. What are the Secretary of State's responsibilities in this matter?
Certainly, the hon. Gentleman is right. I share his appreciation of the engineering feat that the bridge represents. It was part of the best of 19th century engineering in Britain. I have no reason to believe that any of the hon. Gentleman's concerns are well founded. As he will recall from evidence that I gave to the Select Committee on Transport, we are asking some experts to have another look at the bridge.
My right hon. Friend will know that the chairman of one of the main banks has said that he expects there to be 50,000 redundancies in the banking world. There has been a host of similar developments during recent years. Will my right hon. Friend share with the House, either now or on a subsequent occasion, the Government's latest thinking on the effect that technological change will have on commuter patterns over the next few years?
First, I have no responsibility for banks. Secondly, the technological change to which my hon. Friend referred will not happen just in the future; it is happening now and it is being reflected in our policies as we seek to develop the railway industry in the private sector and to make the best use of developing technology in this country's other transport infrastructure.